When I think about the Kentucky Derby, images of large hats, seer sucker suits and, you guessed it, mouthwatering Kentucky Hot Browns spring to mind.  Ahhh… thank goodness for spring, for horse races, and this delectable little open-faced sandwich that has become synonymous with “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” A close up of a traditional Kentucky Hot Brown with bacon and mornay sauce on a blue plate.Scripture: Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1Every year, the first Saturday in May sees thousands of Southerners gather at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky to eat, to see and be seen, and to cheer as 20 thoroughbred horses race around a dirt track.  Also known as “The Run for the Roses,” the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, a series of three races specifically for three-year old thoroughbred horses that begins in May and ends in early June. 


Upclose of ripe, red tomatoes with green stems and leaves and sliced sour dough bread in the back ground.This race has been run every year without fail since 1875 and consequently, as you can imagine, is steeped in more tradition than a southern Sunday morning service.  From sipping mint juleps and sampling some of the South’s finest fare to southern ladies and their gents topped with wonderful hats that harken back to a more genteel moment in fashion, The Kentucky Derby and its eats are just about as southern as it gets.Upclose of ingredients for the Kentucky hot brown, open-faced sandwich, including bacon, chives, tomatoes, and sliced bread.

So pop on your fancy hat and get in the kitchen because I’ve got a Triple Crown Menu that features simple, but authentic, Kentucky Hot Browns along with other traditional goodies guaranteed to make your own Derby Day Party a galloping success.

On Our Triple Crown Menu:

The Legendary Kentucky Hot Brown

What You’ll Need:

  • butter
  • flour
  • heavy cream 
  • Parmesan cheese 
  • sharp white cheddar
  • ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • sliced roasted turkey breast
  • thinly sliced sourdough bread 
  • thick sliced bacon
  • Caprese tomatoes
  • Paprika
  • Chives

To make these heavenly open-face sandwiches, we’re going to have to get chef-y for a minute and make a sauce.  But never fear, it’s not that hard.  If I can do it, anyone can. One of the things that makes a Hot Brown a Hot Brown and not just a turkey & cheese sandwich is its classic mornay sauce. This sauce begins by melting butter and slowly whisking in flour and letting it brown just a little to form a roux. It’s super similar to making a base for a gravy.  So, if you’ve made gravy, you’ve got this.  If you haven’t, you’ve still got this.

Close up of butter melted in a sauce pan with flour in the middle.

Now, it’s time to get saucy by whisking heavy cream into the roux and letting it simmer for a couple of minutes.  We could stop at this point and pat ourselves on the back because we’ve made what is called a Béchamel sauce- one of the 5 classic mother sauces of French cooking.  We are SO. FANCY. And we didn’t even know it!

Upclose of a light roux in a sauce pan with a whisk and cream being poured in.

But we don’t want to stop there because as fancy as Béchamel is, we are wanting Mornay.  And why wouldn’t we?  A Mornay sauce is a white CHEESE sauce.  Cheese, my people!  So let’s get on with this last step!  Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in the 1/4 C Parmesan and 1/4 C cheddar cheese until it’s all smooth and dreamy.

Upclose of bechamel sauce in a saucepan with Parmesan cheese being added.

Sprinkle in that nutmeg, salt and pepper to make it tasty and look at you!  So chef-y.  You just made a fabulous Mornay!

Upclose of Mornay sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper added.

Ok, enough cheffing around, we’ve got to get down to open-faced sandwich making. It’s time to butter both sides of the slices of sour dough and toast.

Melted butter in a small dish with a brush. Butter and butter bread and tomatoes are in the background.

Fry the bacon and rough chop it.

Bacon, rough chopped on a cutting board.

To build our Hot Browns, place one slice of toast in the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish (you will need 2 13X9 dishes for this recipe). Top with turkey, then 2-3 slices of tomato.


Sourdouch slices in a clearnbaking dish topped with turkey and tomatoes, next to a cutting board with grated Parmesan in a turquoise bowl, sliced turley, chives, toasted bread, and a chunk of white cheddar.Spoon your delectable mornay sauce over the tomatoes and sprinkle the tops with the rest of your Parmesan.

Slices of sourdough topped with turkey and tomatoes with Mornay sauce being spooned over the topped. A chunk of white cheddar, chopped bacon and chives are in the background.

Almost complete Hot Browns in a baking dish being topped with grated Parmesan cheese.Now it’s time to brown these babies under a broiler until the cheese begins to brown and bubble.  Look at that gloriousness right there.

Hot Browns after being heated in the oven. Paremsan cheese is melted and browned. Hold on to your horses though (Kentucky Derby jokes) because we’re about to add the bacon.  I know.  Cheese sauce and bacon.  You’re gonna have to fan me a little before we can move on.  Garnish with a little smoked paprika and chives and serve ’em up immediately while they’re still hot.

A finished Kentucky Hot Brown on a blue Fiesta Ware plate.

An upclose of a traditional open faced Kentucky Hot Brown.It’s not really a Kentucky Derby party without real Kentucky Hot Browns.  And these are sooo good and hearty your southern gents won’t really mind that you are also serving tea sandwiches at this gig.  To learn more about how Kentucky Hot Browns became a thing, check out its story from the Brown Hotel.

***Pin this Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe here!***A long collage photo optimized for Pinterest.

Want more Kentucky Derby?  Try these ASD favorites!

Kentucky Derby Party Style Guide

How to Host Your Own Derby Party

Derby Day at The Dixie






Catch this and other great recipes at Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, and Full Plate Thursday.

Traditional Kentuck Hot Browns
A delicious open face sandwich with turkey, tomatoes, bacon, and Mornay sauce.
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  1. 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
  2. 1 1/2 Tbsp flour
  3. 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  4. 1 C Parmesan cheese (separate 1/4 C)
  5. 1/4 C Sharp white cheddar
  6. Pinch of ground nutmeg
  7. Salt and pepper
  8. 1 lb. sliced roasted turkey breast, thickly sliced
  9. 8-10 slices of thinly sliced sourdough bread (Bread slices should also be small in size. Either use a small loaf or cut large slices in half for an hor d'oeuvre size serving)
  10. 12 or so pieces thick sliced bacon
  11. 8-10 Caprese tomatoes, sliced
  12. Paprika
  13. Chives
  1. In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined to form a roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in the 1/4 C Parmesan and cheddar cheeses until smooth.
  4. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Butter both sides of the slices of sour dough and toast.
  6. Fry the bacon and rough chop it.
  7. For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in 13x9 baking dish (I use two dishes to hold all of the hot browns). Layer turkey then 2-3 slices of tomato.
  8. For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in 13x9 baking dish (I use two dishes to hold all of the hot browns). Layer turkey then 2-3 slices of tomato.
  9. Spoon the sauce over the tomatoes. You should use about 1/2 of the sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese.
  10. Place baking dishes under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble.
  11. Remove. Add bacon and chives. Sprinkle with paprika and serve immediately.
  1. These are best when served hot.
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